Helping women overcome the anguish of unwanted sexual advances

August 6, 2014
Coping skills help women overcome the mental anguish of unwanted body evaluation and sexual advances

Some young women simply have more resilience and better coping skills and can shrug off the effect of unwanted cat calls, demeaning looks and sexual advances. Women with low resilience struggle and could develop psychological problems when they internalize such behavior, because they think they are to blame. So say Dawn Szymanski and Chandra Feltman of the University of Tennessee in the US, in Springer's journal Sex Roles, after studying how female college students handle the sexually objectifying behavior of men.

According to the popular feminist Objectification Theory, of most cultures are seen as sexual objects that are there for the pleasure of men's sexual desires. Examples of such conduct include men's visibly scrutinizing a woman's figure or making comments about her body parts, giving whistles or cat calls, , unwanted sexual advances or sexual assault. The media also play a role in these practices when they depict women as mere sexual objects. These experiences contribute to some women's developing mental health problems, such as eating disorders, depressive symptoms and substance abuse problems.

To study how women cope with such sexually oppressive experiences, Szymanski and Feltman studied the responses to an online questionnaire of 270 young adult heterosexual undergraduate women from a university in the Southeastern region of the US.

Their findings show that experience increased when they are being sexually objectified. Women with low resilience are especially vulnerable, and tend to internalize such behavior. Some women feel confused and shameful, and reason that their own inferiority is the cause of such bad experiences. They therefore blame themselves, rather than the perpetrators, and this causes psychological distress.

Szymanski and Feltman surmise that resilient women are more successful at managing adverse experiences because they are able to cope and adapt. They can manage stress and rise above disadvantage. Resilience is both a style of personal functioning and a way in which people ably adapt to stressful situations.

"Resilient women may see gender-related oppressive experiences as challenges - rather than barriers – that can be overcome," says Szymanski.

The University of Tennessee researchers stress that clinicians should explore how their female clients experience and cope with sexually oppressive behavior. Clients can be taught the value of supportive social networks, and how to assign meaning to adversity. Clients should be taught that being objectified is nothing personal, but rather a flawed cultural practice.

"Psychologists can help their female clients to identify and explore various ways by which they can better cope with sexually oppressive behavior. In addition, we need interventions aimed at decreasing individual and cultural practices of sexually objectifying women," advises Feltman.

Explore further: How sexual power can be disempowering

More information: Szymanski, D. M. & Feltman, C.E. (2014). Experiencing and Coping with Sexually Objectifying Treatment: Internalization and Resilience, Sex Roles, DOI: 10.1007/s11199-014-0392-6

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Huns
not rated yet Aug 08, 2014
"According to the popular feminist Objectification Theory, women of most cultures are seen as sexual objects that are there for the pleasure of men's sexual desires."

I guess the people who work on these theories don't know too many women, because women sexually objectify men all the time.

Here is what men and women need to understand about each other. Both sexes harass, stalk, and sexually assault, although women are more likely to get away with it due to patriarchal opinions about feminine "weakness" that they often exploit. Both sexes objectify, which is completely natural, normal behavior. It's normal to get excited about someone's sexual characteristics for the same reason it's normal to get excited about ice cream or puppy dogs.

In most European and South American countries, the women are just as openly sexual as the men. Many of them openly pursue men for sex. Women in English-speaking countries have been corrupted by this notion that sex has to be about drama and shrillness.
Huns
not rated yet Aug 08, 2014
"The University of Tennessee researchers stress that clinicians should explore how their female clients experience and cope with sexually oppressive behavior."

Men are never the victims, because men are strong and women are weak. Do they want to fight patriarchal values, or use them to pretend this is a one-way street? They can't do both.

"Clients can be taught the value of supportive social networks, and how to assign meaning to adversity."

Clients can receive reinforcement of neural reward pathways that motivate them to enjoy perceiving sex and men in the most shrill, entitled, self-absorbed way possible, rather than taught how their emotional systems actually work & how to cope, because then therapists would be out of a job. (What, you think your therapist of 13 years wants to FIX you?)

"Clients should be taught that being objectified is nothing personal, but rather a flawed cultural practice."

Clients should be taught that the dozens of ways they objectify men are JUST FINE!
kochevnik
not rated yet Aug 10, 2014
Gloria Steinem was a CIA agent and asset. That's all thinking people need to know

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